Surely, Rebecca Traister is correct to point out the ascendance of single women as a political force. More and more women have chosen to postpone marriage and family in favor of career. And they have become a significant voting bloc.
These independent women are more likely to be progressive. They turn to government for programs that will do for them what traditionally would have been done by a husband.
Many people have noted that husbandless women look to Uncle Sam to solve their problems and to protect and provide for them. Whether it is parental leave, higher minimum wage or new anti-sexual harassment legislation, single women consistently vote Democratic because they see the government serving them in ways that men no longer can or will.
Traister disputes the notion that single women look to the government as surrogate husbands, but her argument is fatuous. The point is clear and obvious.
More importantly, Traister’s analysis ignores the fact that women who seek independence and autonomy over family are more likely to be alone. And very few of them really like and want to be alone for most of their lives. Most of these women have been told that once they become fully actualized feminists they will naturally find true love and the perfect husband. This is and was a lie.
Traister ignores these women because goal is more ideological and more political. She is proclaiming the advent of a new social class, a new proletariat that will advance the cause of socialism through the ballot box. Feminist zealots like Traister want to see the nation transformed into a socialist paradise-- of the government, by the government and for the government. Seeing the feminist agenda become law is far more important than the real lives of real women.
Statistically speaking, marriage has gone out of style. Or, at least, early marriage, marriage in one’s twenties has diminished. Fewer women are getting married and fewer women are marrying young.
In 2009, the proportion of American women who were married dropped below 50 percent. In other words, for the first time in American history, single women (including those who were never married, widowed, divorced, or separated) outnumbered married women. Perhaps even more strikingly, the number of adults younger than 34 who had never married was up to 46 percent, rising 12 percentage points in less than a decade. For women under 30, the likelihood of being married has become astonishingly small: Today, only around 20 percent of Americans are wed by age 29, compared to the nearly 60 percent in 1960.
It is a radical upheaval, a national reckoning with massive social and political implications. Across classes, and races, we are seeing a wholesale revision of what female life might entail. We are living through the invention of independent female adulthood as a norm, not an aberration, and the creation of an entirely new population: adult women who are no longer economically, socially, sexually, or reproductively dependent on or defined by the men they marry.
True enough, it is a radical upheaval. Through the lens of feminist ideology these women are strong and empowered and independent. They can care for themselves and provide for themselves. They do not need a man for anything. But, Traister fails to consider the fact that they are alone and that they often do not like to be alone. The longer they stay single the more likely it is that they will stay alone. At times, they have their children later in life. At other times, they cannot have children.
In time, these facts will make the radical transformation unstable. When young women look at what older women have sacrificed for career and to belong to the new proletariat they are less likely to want to emulate their example.
Like men, women are perfectly capable of adapting to circumstances. And yet, delaying marriage and family is a risk. It is a gamble. You can argue that it represents a form of self-actualization, but it requires you to take certain risks.
These newly independent women are living in a fiction where a man is no longer really necessary. But, that fact alone tends to drive men away. A man who has no real purpose in a woman’s life beyond donating an occasional bodily fluid is not likely to see her as a desirable wife. The more a woman is self-reliant and self-absorbed, the less she is likely to find a husband… unless she can find one who shares her ideological zeal.
Worse yet, being educated in schools that laud girls at the expense of boys dulls men’s competitive spirit and make them less capable of providing for a family. They might find women useful for certain bodily pleasures but few will want to marry the women who were pushed ahead of them in school.
Traister describes this coterie of independent women as having exciting and full lives. She glosses over the fact that many of these singletons are desperately lonely. I would be interested in knowing how many of them are taking medication for their anguish. And I would wonder how they feel about the repeated traumas of failed relationships.
It all looks like a triumph for second-wave feminism. This is, after all, the feminist dream come true. It represents a feminist-driven transformation in the way women see themselves, the way they plan their lives, the way they see men and the way they treat men.
Why should a zealous feminist like Traister not take credit for it? Despite her protestation, the radical change was generated by cultural warriors who politicized private life.
Traister says otherwise, but many of these women are doing it to make a point, to demonstrate that they can live their lives just like men do… and without paying a price. The latter point is completely occluded in the article, but deserves re-emphasis. Women have every right to live their lives as they prefer. To imagine that there is no trade-off involved or that no one is going to pay a price is dishonest.
In Traister’s words:
This reorganization of our citizenry, unlike the social movements that preceded it and made it possible — from abolition and suffrage and labor fights of the 19th and early-20th centuries to the civil-rights, women’s, and gay-rights movements of the mid-20th century — is not a self-consciously politicized event. Today’s women are, for the most part, not abstaining from or delaying marriage to prove a point about equality. They are doing it because they have internalized assumptions that just a half-century ago would have seemed radical: that it’s okay for them not to be married; that they are whole people able to live full professional, economic, social, sexual, and parental lives on their own if they don’t happen to meet a person to whom they want to legally bind themselves. The most radical of feminist ideas—the disestablishment of marriage — has been so widely embraced as to have become habit, drained of its political intent but ever-more potent insofar as it has refashioned the course of average female life.
I agree that the radical feminist idea has become a habit, widely embraced by women. That does not, of course, make it less political or less radical.
One respects the right of any woman to make whatever life decisions she thinks are best for her. And yet, feminism has not done any women any favors by sugar-coating the outcome.
Most women do not relish the prospect of being alone. Most women are not pleased to discover that by the time that they decide to have children, their time has passed. And women who have children in their late thirties discover that it is not very easy to hold down an important executive position and to raise young children at the same time. Traister herself is a writer, so the problem did not arise for her.
And, yet, ideology has not yet repealed human nature. Whenever motherhood happens, the responsibility falls primarily on women.
The women who are fiercely independent, who do not need a man for anything and who do not feel that their men depend on them for anything discover, once they have children, that their children need and depend on them.
Human infants are born helpless and remain helpless for longer than do most other animals. They need care and nurturance, of a sort that, in truth, only women can offer. If you ask a woman whether she would prefer that she or her husband be in charge of caring for a newborn, the answer, nearly universally, will be that she very much wants to be in charge herself.
One is not surprised to see a feminist distort reality and declare that the traditional division of household labor and the traditional division of childcare responsibilities is merely a function of what Traister calls “the ‘50s-era social contract.” Obviously, the traditional and nearly universal (with some slight variations) social contract was not invented in 1950. One can only wonder how today’s intelligent, hyper-educated young women can actually believe such a piece of patent nonsense.
Speaking of distortions, examine Traister’s conclusion:
The independent woman, both high earning and low earning, looks into her future and sees decades, or even a lifetime, lived outside marriage, in which she will be responsible for both earning wages and doing her own domestic labor.
Why does she refuse to point out that to many women this dream is a nightmare? Why does she lie about the difficulties that women have when they feel alone and abandoned, unloved and undesirable? Why does she indulge in a rank distortion, if not to induce women into buying the feminist fiction of cost-free independence?
Traister revels in the fact that this new class of women is a reliably Democratic voting bloc. If that is a woman’s goal, she does best to follow the feminist siren song. If that is not a woman’s goal, she does best to ignore it.